Exercising with bubba

Parents of small children, have you ever had that experience where you need to get jobs done but bubba insists on being carried? (of course you have)

What about that experience where you really want to do some exercise but don't know how you're going to fit it in with bubba? (absolutely)

Our head coach Jack had this experience on Sunday and played around with a few ideas of how to deal with it. Here's Jack with the story.


Here's the situation. I look after bubba (15 months old at the time of writing) for the full day each Sunday (plus a couple of 2 or 3 hours blocks throughout the week). This Sunday just gone I faced a familiar dilemma. We had just finished breakfast and it would have been really handy if I could clean up the kitchen and pack the dishwasher. But of course (and totally understandably) bubba wanted to be held. I'm sure you understand that this slows the process down a lot.

As that was going on I was also dealing with that nagging sensation of "I want to do some form of movement" (I say movement, but perhaps you'll know that better as "I want to do some exercise"). But it's tough to fit in exercise when you're one-on-one with bubba. Then I decided to try something.

I decided to try turning packing the dishwasher while holding bubba into exercise.

I'm going to share my experience here. I'm not saying this will work in all instances. It's not a magic bullet. I'm also aware that I'm not a stay at home parent. I have one full one-on-one day with bubba per week plus some other 2 to 3 hour blocks at other times. A stay at home parent obviously has a different experience. But, hopefully there is something of use in these ramblings.

Why I want to share this experience is that it took the pressure off me. Because of what I did, it didn't matter if loading the dishwasher took heaps longer with bubba than it otherwise would have. It also didn't matter if I didn't get to move later (full disclosure, I did also fit some dedicated movement in later with the help of my big brother but that doesn't take away from the point of this story).

So what did I do?

Well, I didn't do much physically different than if I just loaded the dishwasher normally with bubba. But I did a lot different mentally!

I started by reframing the situation.


What spurred all of this was my desire to move but the limitation of looking after bubba, and the frustration of having to load a dishwasher while holding bubba.

At Ideanthro Movement we go on about 'real movement' rather than irrelevant exercises. There's no doubt that doing chores with bubba is real movement. So for the very fact that I was doing stuff, I was in fact already getting in quality movement. I just had to realise it.

What the reframing did was deal with two mental hangups i had about the situation. The first was not getting exercise. I reframed this as my exercise. That took away worries about not getting it in. Secondly I reframed how darn long it was taking to pack the dishwasher. See, when I thought about this as just packing the dishwasher, then the fact that I was having to carry bubba (who was slowing me down a lot) was a problem because it was wasting time. But when I reframed it as movement (or exercise) then I gained a whole bunch of spare time. The time that I would have otherwise allocated to exercise later in the day was saved, and I could draw from that account to pay for the extra time it was taking to load the dishwasher. I was using the dishwasher-bubba-cuddle time to get two things done at once; packing the dishwasher and some movement (three things if we count the cuddles!)

So to summarise. I reframed the time as exercise (which is true, because quality exercise is made of real movement and this was real movement) and that got rid of stress og not getting a workout in later should i not have time, and it also made the extra time this was taking worth it because i was in fact saving time.

Side note - what I have described here is very much along the lines of what author and biomechanist Katie Bowman calls 'nutritious movement'.

So having reframed the situation, what else could I do?

Three things, it turns out.


At Ideanthro Movement one of the core tenants of our training is huge variety. I could waffle on about why that's the case but I've done that elsewhere and I'll do it again another time.

Why that's important is that if I just treat loading the dishwasher with bubba like work then there's a good chance I'm just going to pick one way to carry bubba, grit my teeth and get it done (or until i cant hold her anymore). But with my movement/ exercise/training hat on changed my approach. I deliberately changed arms every 30s or so at the same time I changed the nauances of the position that I was carrying here in (carry on the hip, carry on the side, on one arm front, over my shoulder etc). All give a different stimulus and made the time spent packing the dishwasher more effective training..


Next up is technique.

Sometimes when we carry kids our technique can be pretty awful. Sore backs are common. But if we're training then the onus is on good technique. You would try for good technique at the gym, and so I used this dishwasher packing training session as an opportunity to practice good carrying technique.

This could mean different things for different people, but I have a habit of excessively extending my.lower back and overusing one quadratus lumborum muscle when carrying bubba so for me the emphasis was on maintaining good posture (or more correctly, postures (plural) because I was moving and when you're moving there is no single correct posture, just a constant transition from one position to the next).

Because I turned the dishwasher packing session into my movement and was saving time (no gym trip later) I didn't have to rush to get the dishwasher full as quickly as possible with no regard for my technique. Instead I took my time and even take rested if I felt my technique falter.

That brings us to interval training.


You may well have done interval training. Work for a certain amount of time, then rest for a certain amount of time and repeat. It's really effective. Well guess what, it's was useful for my dishwasher workout. Again if you're just treating this as a job to get done, then it probably needs to get done fast. But I was treating it was movement/exercise and that meant I wanted to train smart. Intervals are smart. Intervals are effective and that means rest is ok.

So, when I got tired of holding bubba or my technique started to falter, I put her down on the floor and rested. If bubba decided she wants to be put down to go get a soft toy to cuddle, that was ok. I rested while bubba got the toy, then picked them both up when bubba returned and started another interval.


Am I saying this is some miracle approach to always get your exercise in and never be frustrated about how long it takes to pack the dishwasher when wrangling a baby?


Did I find the approach described useful for me on Sunday?


Do I hope you might find something in it as well?


Let me know how you go or what similar techniques you use.

Jack Mullalymovement, children, family